Unlike the Whos in Whoville the members of the Lipscomb Lady Bisons volleyball team didn’t hold hands in a circle and sing when they discovered that Christmas had not arrived as expected.
Coach Brandon Rosenthal’s Lady Bisons have been the most successful program in Lipscomb athletics since the NCAA era began and Rosenthal has rewarded them for their successes.
But on the first day of practice, known as “Christmas in August” the players walked into the dressing room and found two white T-shirts, a couple of pairs of black spandex shorts, socks and one pair of shoes.
The reaction? Stunned silence.
“Usually the locker room is just decked out on the first day,” junior setter Caitlin “Dot” Dotson said. “Our lockers looked very plain. It wasn’t that we were disappointed. We came in with some pretty big expectations. It was just kind of a shock.
“Everyone was looking under the lockers wondering where is all of our stuff. Usually the lights are dimmed in the locker room and when you walk in there all of your equipment is there.”
Rosenthal didn’t steal Christmas like the Grinch of the Dr. Seuss book. A few days later Christmas finally arrived but he was concerned that he might have harmed the spirit of his team based on the results of the first two preseason practices.
“I wouldn’t say the beginning of our preseason was what I wanted,” Rosenthal said. “But that’s (lack of equipment) probably not why."
A stronger emphasis on fundamentals has been the theme of preseason.
“They hadn’t really done anything to deserve not getting their gear," Rosenthal said. "In fact, it was the opposite. The message was we have to go back to the basics.
"There is a sign in the locker room that says ‘the only thing you deserve it was you earn’. That sign has been up there since day one since I got here.”
The lesson Rosenthal was trying to teach was that his players, despite their past successes, need to take care of the process this season and the outcome will take care of itself. He admits that might have been surprising to a program that has won three straight Atlantic Sun Tournament Championships and four in the last five years.
“We could just rest on our laurels and say we have won the past three so let’s just be the same,” Rosenthal said. “But one of the reasons I hired Jeff Wismer was because I didn’t want us to be the same. I wanted us to be challenged.
“I took the basics to another level. You can’t get more basic than a white shirt with a logo.”
Outside hitter Kaycee Green, the lone senior on the team, is certain that every player got Rosenthal’s message even if there was no verbal response.
“No one was going to say anything about it because we have enough respect for him to know what he is doing,” Green said. “We finally picked up on it after a couple of days. He made the comment that we have to earn things this year and he wasn’t going to spoil us. So we appreciated that.
“We worked hard for our gear and finally got it. It was actually more exciting because you were anticipating it and didn’t know when it was going to come.”
Dotson said the new gear was worth the wait.
“Brandon decks us out pretty good,” Dotson said. “We are going to look great.”
The players all appear to have received that message that this team has to prove itself.
“It was a good message for preseason to say we are a new team and we aren’t the team that did those things in the past,” Dotson said. “We are working for a new goal.
“We started from ground zero and we have had to build our way up. We are gradually doing that. We have to work for it and we are going to get what we work for. It was a good lesson.”
The Lady Bisons are on the road in Lexington, Ky., this weekend to face three major tests in the at the University of Kentucky Invitational. Friday they meet Long Beach State. Saturday they will play No. 13 Kentucky followed by North Carolina.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.